Charging Up Education

Carlow University hosted educators for a renewable energy workshop by REcharge Labs.

The PowerPoint projected a Kodak moment of disappointment. Ten children with matching blue t-shirts reacted with identical frowns and disbelief. Their wind-powered science project had just collapsed.

There may be sadness, warns Mike Arquin, cofounder of REcharge Labs, but “the best thing about the children in this photo is that they care“.

Arquin is presenting to teachers at the REcharge Academy hosted by Carlow University, June 13-17.

“As teachers, if we can get kids to care, we win,” Arquin says.

The REcharge Academy attracted educators from as far away as Alaska. Fifteen members joined from the Carlow community with their participation supported by The Carlow Initiative for High Performance STEM Learning grant. They were all about learning—but not the kind that involves sitting quietly.

The event allowed university faculty to share ideas with some teachers from The Campus School of Carlow University, a private school serving grades K-8. Campus School teachers who gave presentations included Stephanie Conrad and Linda Wallen.

Among the Carlow faculty who participated were Rae Ann Hirsh, DEd, program director in early childhood education, Betsy Hunt, a program coordinator for the Math Education Learning Lab, Bill Kowallis, a chemistry instructor, and Mike Martucci, an assistant professor of chemistry.

The REcharge Academy enhances STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education with a focus on renewable energy. Rather than focus on lectures and readings, participants came together to talk, experiment, and just plain get creative with the way STEAM areas are taught.

At the workshop, a potentially complicated talk about electrical currents transformed into a colorful two-minute animated video about how solar panels work. Educators shared ideas with each other and from educational websites.

“Our goal was to gather Carlow University education students, teachers from The Campus School, and university faculty to collaborate on the development of energy curriculum at multiple age levels,” says Lori Maxfield, scholar-in-residence at Carlow University, who assisted with the coordination of the workshop.

Maxfield was thrilled to extend the workshop opportunity to participants from across the country.

The REcharge Academy was produced by Arquin’s company REcharge Labs. He and his co-founder Asia Ward led daily discussions supplemented by a variety of presenters from the Carlow and Pittsburgh community.

They addressed misconceptions of solar and wind power, discussed how energy data is collected and measured, and allowed the participants to build circuits and work with Hummingbird Robotics kits. The final projects presented on Friday swirled around designing and building an object or device that incorporated the concepts and skills learned during the week. Projects ranged from a bubble-blowing disco center to a recreation of the Consol Energy Center honoring the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup victory.

The week allowed educators to increase their knowledge about renewable energy and get inspired about classroom activities.

Andrea Gump ’18, a Carlow student majoring in early childhood education, liked the workshop’s hands-on “make it” activities.

“The materials, and lesson plans will provide me with valuable resources to draw from as I teach students,” she said. “I will take what I have learned into the classroom environment and hopefully inspire young students to become engaged and excited.”

Learn more about the education programs in Carlow’s College of Learning and Innovation. 

Photo above: Carlow education graduates Merina Jedlicka, Rachel Poprocky, and Ashley Temple designed and built a miniature of the Consol Energy Center celebrating the Stanley Cup victory of the Pittsburgh Penguins for their final project for the REcharge Academy. 

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